Thursday, August 26, 2010

World Congress of What?

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," offering the opinions of a certified nobody since 2005! I'm that nobody, and it's all good. I roll with it. Every now and then I'm asked to throw on the "somebody suit" for a few days, and it still fits. It has never gotten a whole lot of wear.

Jason over at The Wild Hunt has a post up today about the commencement of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions. Of course this is a wonderful, terrific get-together, sponsored in spirit by the entire staff here at "The Gods Are Bored."

It's just that name. World Congress of Ethnic Religions.

The word "ethnic" is a freighted term. It suggests a community that is insular due to some set of circumstances. In this case it ennobles the "ethnic" religions in question, but it also (no doubt unintentionally) suggests that those religions belong to their praise and worship teams, and no one else. One of the comments on Jason's post, perhaps not surprisingly, declared, "Heathen proselytism needs to be an oxymoron."

For those of you not up on your Language Arts terminology, the comment might say, "Heathens shouldn't promote their religion outside their narrow ethnic boundaries."

The fact that the large, monotheistic religions have proselytized relentlessly -- and by doing so have earned enmity in some cases -- does not suppose that "ethnic" religions cannot also attract new members to their praise and worship teams. Are we to throw up our hands and say, "Okay, if you want to be a Heathen, you have to prove through DNA extraction that your ancestors were Nordic?"

If the busy god is blind to ethnicity, then the bored gods had better be blind to it too. Otherwise, in our increasingly pluralistic world, it will become more and more difficult to sustain "ethnic" religions, no matter how badly we want and need them.

Bored deities cannot afford to have the badge of a certain ethnicity slapped onto them. I'm sure some will disagree with me, pointing out that people should know as much as they can about their ethnic heritages, and that religion is a big part of that. I would counter that religion must be the part of that heritage that you are willing to share with anyone, of any stripe, who wants to explore your praise and worship team and get to know your deities.

Would you rather your religion be run like a country club or a free outdoor rock concert? The busy god opted for the latter, and look what it's gotten Him. Time to push back a little.

World Congress of Ethnic Religions? Rings hollow. How about World Congress of Essential Religions?

Our operators are standing by to take your call.


Alex Pendragon said...

Profound, Anne, as usual. I personally don't have any desire whatsoever to SELL my religion on every street corner, but I will not hesitate to invite anyone who takes an interest to experience MY experience of the Devine and take from it what they will. Matter of fact, if they inquire within he next 30 minutes, I will DOUBLE their experience, and not even charge them the extra shipping and handling (which is where they REALLY get their profit from). I cannot, however, give them TWO religions for the price of one. I only practice one. One is hard enough.

Intense Guy said...

I think I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that while I know that in times past, ethnic groups counted on their "god(s)" to be bigger and better than their enemies' (read: other ethnic groups) god(s) ... the root(s) of all religions seems to me to be all of the same - the need for primitive people to understand where they came from in order to think they could influence where they were going - this spans all ethnic groups.

The fundementals of religious needs are the same for everyone - regardless of race, sex, or class.

sott'Eos said...

This is a funny coincidence: just last night I was in WalMart, looking at shampoo. They had a sign partway down the aisle, "Ethnic Hair Care". It seemed so odd to single-out part of the population as "Ethnic" and the rest of us as "Not-Ethnic". This must be that "normativity" that I hear so much about.

Anonymous said...

Which leads to the (wandering steadily off topic) question: At just what point did "Ethnic Stidies" in American academic language come to exclude white Catholics and Jews, let alone Appalachians? Rodger C

Anonymous said...


To address the topic: I think "ethnic religions" is an attempt to find an academic term less loaded than "pagan" and more accurate and up-to-date than "animist." RC

Witch Mom said...

Excellent post and wonderful insights. I get so frustrated sometimes with people. They think our artificial constructs of gender and race apply to the Gods.

Yes, there is a such a thing as cultural appropriation and racism, but that just means not being a jerk, okay?

Lily, aka Witch Mom